Pressure – to thrive or fall?

How to challenge what pressure means to you


People handle pressure in different ways. Some people thrive under pressure while others crumble. I was definitely a crumble case! But that all changed. The pressure hasn’t really changed much, the situations aren’t much different, but something changed, my mentality. It wasn’t about the external pressures any more, but how I internally viewed and processed those. During a mental conditioning session we had as part of our training for the tournament season in 2013, the coach said, “Pressure is something you put on yourself, it’s how you deal with it that counts. See it as a challenge, not as a negative thing, a threat.” My buddy and fellow brawling jammer put these words into a catchy saying which I now repeat to myself often:

Pressure – a challenge to meet, not a threat of defeat.

At first I thought it all sounded sensible and could see the logic, but I still couldn’t apply it to my mentality. This was because I did not truly understand what it meant to my game and my journey. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had a really tough patch in derby. There was a lot of self doubt and I questioned if I even still enjoyed what I was doing. You may be asking yourself similar questions? You may be beginning to let that self doubt creep in every now and then, don’t worry, we have all been there.

Although there were lots of smaller factors and triggers feeding into the downward spiral, there was a larger underlying problem. PRESSURE.

It took me a long while to see this and to be able to begin to heal from this. But the moral of the story is YOU can come back from this, STRONGER then you have ever been.

Graph to help visualise what I'm trying to articulate, and because, secretly, everyone loves a graph!

Graph to help visualise what I’m trying to articulate, and because, secretly, everyone loves a graph!

Here are some signs and tips from my personal experience:

Identify the problem

You can’t fix a problem unless you know what it is. Try not to focus on the smaller issues, instead try and see the connections and how this fits into the bigger picture.

For me, I had a lot of injuries and a few situations had knocked my confidence, but the problem was that I put far too much pressure on myself. I had made Brawling, and then made the tournament roster. At the start I didn’t put pressure on myself as much, I was the newbie and just happy to be there. But as I had more and more success, I felt as though I had to be at the top of my game straight away, in order to be rostered, get track time and get the best results for my team. When we had a bad game, I took this personally, I put that pressure on myself. I was trying to run before I could even walk, and that’s never a good idea. Once I looked back on this trend and realised what the underlying factor was, I was able to take the next step.

Relieving the pressure

So you may have just been rostered for a team/game, given more track time or you have made coaching committee, maybe made it into main league or passed your minimum skills. You have been working your butt off but now you’ve made it you can breathe a little right? Wrong. Now its a battle for the next challenge. But wait, it’s against all those other awesome skaters who have the same goals. If you don’t do it before them, then it will never happen and your derby journey will be over before it even truly began, right?…. Also wrong.

Yes, the pressure is always there, but that’s a good thing. Sport is competitive and with that comes the pressure. It’s what drives you and helps you grow and challenge yourself. But this pressure is internal. No one else is putting that on you. No one is saying, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS ROSTER OR ELSE. That’s all you (unless someone is saying that, then they should go stuff it cos they are being big meanies). So this is where you need to turn that voice into a positive one. Take the fear away, the idea of defeat. It doesn’t exist. It’s just another challenge, something to work towards. A goal. Its an opportunity to learn and develop. There is nothing greater then that!

It’s okay to not be ready yet, it’s okay to take your time and learn and develop. When you are ready, you will get the opportunities you want. You have to trust your leadership and yourself. Concentrate on getting yourself ready, on being the best athlete you can be, let that be your goal, not a specific game/tour/tournament. If you’re not ready… do you really want to play? I know I don’t!

These are the things I began to tell myself. I realised I was trying so hard to already be at the top, I hadn’t stepped back to see how far I had come already and that it was okay to still be learning and developing because no one expected anything else from me at that point, Only I did.

Clean the slate

So now you have identified the problem and you have shifted your mentality, how do you put this into practice? Set goals, Small goals to develop your skills and strengthen your weaknesses. Make them fun too, it makes a big difference. See more on goal setting HERE.

Talk to your team and leadership about your learnings and your new goals. Tell them what you are working on so they can see how you are developing. Reach out and see if anyone has similar goals, you can practice with a buddy and keep each other on the right path.

Reflect on your journey and appreciate how far you have come and what you had to overcome, but don’t dwell. The past is the past. To lose is to actually gain. You win and you learn, there is no lose!

Get yourself a notepad, set goals on your way to training, write down ‘Power words’ to remind you of things to practice and focus on at training such as fast feet, dig in, power etc. Write down inspiring quotes to read before a game or scrimmage.

And remember, it isn’t a race, all that matters is that you are aiming for the same finish line, it doesn’t matter how quickly you get there, it only matters that you keep moving forward. These are all things I learned the hard way. Hopefully these insights can help you avoid the same pitfalls.

Photo by John Hesse